ABC Ballarat: Statewide Drive with Nicole Chvastek – May 9,2017

Transcript:  Tuesday May 9, 2017

Station:   ABC Ballarat

Program:  Statewide Drive with Nicole Chvastek



NICOLE CHVASTEK:              Brenton Smith is lead firefighter at the Ballarat City Fire Station. Brenton Smith, good afternoon.

BRENTON SMITH:                Yeah good afternoon.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:              What’s your take on all of this, Brenton?

BRENTON SMITH:                Look, it’s- I can only comment on the- on it at a level, I can only comment on the fact of what our- I’m seeing with my own eyes and what our people are telling us. So, just listening to Andrew Ford, he obviously knows more than I do in terms of splitting up the CFA and that sort of thing. Certainly see a need for change to the fire service, but what that looks like, yeah I’m not sure.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:              So do you have an estimation of what the impact would be if the CFA became two organisations? One of paid firefighters and one of volunteer firefighters. Are you concerned that it wouldn’t work as well, or do you think that it would function just as well as it does now?


BRENTON SMITH:                Look I can’t see how extra firefighters is a bad thing for Victoria and a bad thing for the volunteers. And we find with the people on the ground who we come across – and I mean volunteers – we find that any help that they can get they’re very much appreciative of. So I can’t see how extra people is a bad thing. In terms of the EBA, happy to discuss the benefits of the EBA and the benefits for the community. As Andrew said that some of those pay rises has gone through, so it’s actually about the pay and conditions. We’re hell-bent on improving the services to the community and happy to discuss that further. So the Vfbv and the Liberal Party have long campaigned for the Hands Off the CFA. The Hands Off the CFA website was actually generated by the Liberal Party. So essentially removing- and if that’s what the change is to look like, by removing professional firefighters from the CFA, or to use your words, carving it up, well that’s what they’ve campaigned for. So I see it as a good thing. And then the community would then benefit from that as well.


NICOLE CHVASTEK:              Why do you think that the EBA would deliver benefits to the community? Because of course that puts you completely at odds with Andrew Ford.


BRENTON SMITH:                Yeah so we’ve both agreed that it’s not about the pay rise, because we’ve already said that some of that’s already gone through. But if you look at some of the clauses in there like, perhaps road accident rescue as I’ve put in in an article recently, we see the ability to have equipment and training rolled out to fire stations, where we can get to work at a motor vehicle accident a lot sooner, so that we don’t have to wait for a rescue appliance to arrive, which is currently the case. That’s just one of those things, we’re talking about a guaranteed response, the old seven on the fireground argument. We’re talking about a guaranteed timed response, where firefighters are out the door within 90 seconds. They don’t have to content with the day to day struggles that most of us do have to contend with and then throw in firefighting at the same time.


NICOLE CHVASTEK:              The volun- many volunteers regard the provisions in the EBA as a power grab.


BRENTON SMITH:                Yeah I don’t see it as a power grab. Like I say we’re actually- if change is to go through in the terms that you’ve put it, you carve up CFA, we’d no longer be with CFA. So we would be removing the unionism from CFA. So there wouldn’t be any power there in my view. I don’t see how separating two organisations can be a power grab.


NICOLE CHVASTEK:              Well you’d displace volunteers – Andrew Ford says – and you won’t have that massive surge capacity that Victoria relies on in bushfire emergencies.


BRENTON SMITH:                So to displace volunteers, like I say Andrew must know more about what the end result would look like …


NICOLE CHVASTEK:              Well it kills off the integrated model, doesn’t it?


BRENTON SMITH:                Well I’m not sure. It could be as simple as a name change. I don’t know what it’s going to look like. But even- but if it did, like I say, we’d be talking about more firefighters responding to- more firefighters sooner. That reduces the work load for the volunteers which- would it not risk the volunteer just to say, right-o, we need to the surge capacity, can you put down whatever you’re doing. And essentially we’re giving them a hand. So I don’t understand how we’re going to remove our surge capacity by adding more funding into the Fire Services in Victoria.


NICOLE CHVASTEK:              Brenton, great to talk to you. Thank you so much for giving us your time.


BRENTON SMITH:                No worries, thank you.


NICOLE CHVASTEK:              Brenton Smith, lead firefighter- paid lead firefighter at the Ballarat City Fire Station.